COLLEGE PARK — With wide receiver Taivon Jacobs out, Maryland will depend on junior Marcus Leak and sophomores Amba Etta-Tawo and Jacquille Veii to all play bigger roles in the offense.
Leak will start along with the Terps' top two receivers, Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, but Etta-Tawo and Veii could see some playing time as well.
Etta-Tawo, an outside receiver, will be the top backup to Long and Leak. Veii will back up Diggs in the slot and was the fourth wide receiver in the game when Maryland went to four wide receiver sets against James Madison.
Here is a closer look at all three guys, with help from offensive coordinator Mike Locksley.
Leak was a starter for the Terps in 2012 before taking the year from school and football last year. Leak returned after last season, participated in spring practice and has progressively returned to form, although a lower leg injury set him back during preseason practice.
“Strong, athletic guy that’s kind of similar to Deon in that he’s one of those explosive receivers,” Locksley said. “[He’s] not a real shifty or change of direction guy. But when he sticks his foot in the ground, I think he’s a really explosive runner with the ball after the catch. And in the run game, he’s probably our most physical receiver being a 400-pound bencher.”
Veii switched from running back to wide receiver in mid-August and has trying to acclimate to receiver ever since. He had one or two drops against James Madison, but he is one of the fastest and quickest players on Maryland’s roster and has shown some skills working out of the slot.
“With Jacquille, I think the sky is the limit,” Locksley said. “You’ll just continue to see him improve as a receiver. He’s a guy that gives tremendous effort. He’s a guy that practices his tail off. And now, he’s just developing that skill set needed out in space as a receiver. Once we get that part down, his run after the catch is something that he does naturally. I continue to see him improving, but he definitely has the ability to be a playmaker for us there.”
Etta-Tawo stepped into a bigger role last year after Long and Diggs suffered season-ending injuries and finished the year with 31 catches for 500 yards and two touchdowns despite having just two catches for 18 yards in Maryland’s first five games.
Etta-Tawo had some drops during preseason practice. But as he did last season, the long-armed 6-foot-1, 200-pound Etta-Tawo also showed the ability to get behind the defense and make some big plays down the field.
“Obviously he came in last year as a freshman and did some really good things and filled in when Deon went down,” Locksley said. “He’s a really long athlete that has the ability to go get the ball up in the air and attack the ball at its highest point. He’s got good size and has put on some weight, and he also helps you in the run game because he is such a big body in the boundary when you start running the ball over there.”